Oct 31

First U.S. Ship Lost in WWII, 31 October 1941

Monday, October 31, 2011 12:01 AM

Commissioned on 24 September 1920, the destroyer REUBEN JAMES (DD 245) served in the Atlantic Fleet, operating in the Adriatic, Mediterranean, and off Nicaragua, before decommissioning at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 20 January 1931.

She recommissioned on 9 March 1932, and upon the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 she joined the Neutrality Patrol, guarding the Atlantic and Caribbean approaches to the American coast. In March 1941 REUBEN JAMES joined the convoy escort force established to promote the safe arrival of war materials to Britain. This escort force guarded convoys as far as Iceland, where they became the responsibility of British escorts.

Based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland, she sailed from Argentia, Newfoundland, on 23 October 1941, with four other destroyers to escort eastbound convoy HX-156.

At about 0525 on 31 October 1941, REUBEN JAMES was torpedoed by German submarine U-562. Her magazine exploded, and she sank quickly. Forty-four of the crew survived, and 115 died. REUBEN JAMES was the first U.S. Navy ship sunk by hostile action in World War II.

 
 
 
  • Jim Valle

    Actually the sinking of the Reuben James was the fourth hostile incident to take place prior to our official commencement of hostilities with Germany. On April 10, 1941 the destroyer Niblack depth charged a sub. In September the destroyer Greer attacked a German sub reputedly after it had fired two torpedoes at it while it was vectoring British aircraft onto the scene. This resulted in President Roosevelt issuing a “shoot-at-sight” order to the Atlantic Fleet. In mid-October the destroyer Kearney was torpedoed and damaged while on convoy duty and later that month the Reuben James became the first actual total loss. By that time six American merchant ships had been sunk along with several U.S. owned but Panamanian flagged merchantmen.

  • PATRICIA L WHITE

    I AM LOOKING TO LOCATE REFERENCES AND INFORMATION ON THE “WAR” IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC DURING WW II.
    MY FATHER WAS A RADIOMAN ABOARD A PC AND SAILED FROM MIAMI TO RECIFE, BRAZIL.

    WHAT WAS THE “MISSION” IN THE CARRIBEAN/ SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN ?

    DAD TOLD HIS TALES BUT I DON’T THINK I EVER TRUELY UNDERSTOOD WHAT THEY DID .

    I HAVE TRIED TO FIND REFERENCES WITH OUT SUCCESS. COULD YOU PLEASE POINT ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION ? WHAT WORDS DO I NEED TO USE IN THE SEARCH AREA.

    THANK YOU,
    A DAUGHTER OF A WWII NAVY VET
    PAT

  • seif

    U-552 torpedoed and sunk the Reuben James.

 
7ads6x98y